In Tim’s open letter, he says that “The Conservative Government last night brought forward plans for £12bn of cuts to welfare that will directly impact millions of people across the country including the poorest families in our constituencies.
The Conservatives do not need to make these cuts, especially at the same time as giving tax breaks to millionaires.”. I completely agree with this sentiment, however I also believe the cut to the Bankers Bonus and the reduction in the top rate of tax whilst introducing the bedroom tax, increasing VAT and abolishing the education maintenance allowance, all brought about whilst the Lib Dems were in coalition, were equally abhorrent plans.
Tim Farron goes on to say that “The people who will be hit by these changes need someone to give them a voice in Parliament and fight their corner, and last night Labour failed to stand up for them.“. This is pretty hard to argue with. Whilst Labour fought against the coalition cuts that impacted the poorest members of society alone for five years and have provided this voice consistently for at least the course of my lifetime, I agree that they have got this one wrong. Coming from the Lib Dems who consistently failed to fight their corner in government is a tad rich though. There is a fantastic speech from Glenda Jackson on the subject of benefits wrongly being taken away from people. Something that happened whilst the Lib Dems were in coalition and something they failed to address.
We are consistent in our opposition. In Government we blocked these measures and in opposition we are voting against them.“. So I think Tim is trying to claim that they are fighting for social justice which Labour have failed to do and that they did this in government. I can only assume that his support for the reduction in funding for charities and Sure Start Centre’s, many of which closed whilst the Lib Dems were in coalition, are cuts he does not deem “cruel and excessive”. Also, I can only conclude that making disabled people and parents who share custody of a child financially worse off is something Tim Farron believes is helping social justice.
To finish Tim says “To give in to the narrative that the answer to our country’s needs is to pit the poorest in the country against one another is shameful.” I agree that attacking the poorest members of society is shameful. That the Lib Dems only rarely criticised their coalition partners for this over the last five years is a fact that renders their criticism of Labour somewhat redundant.
To be lectured on supporting poor people by a party that had a hand in a staggering rise in food-banks in this country is something beyond distasteful. When the Lib Dems were ignoring all of the opportunities to amend or throw out the Bedroom tax whilst in government, Labour were fighting to make these people’s voices heard. People who were having their benefits cut for having a “spare room” to store equipment for their disability, or the child they shared custody of or even the husband who had become a carer for his wife and needed to sleep in a separate room.
Politically, I understand the Lib Dems need to distance themselves from the Tories (that they were punished so badly by the electorate for supporting in government). Also, I understand their desire to distinguish themselves from the Labour party as a different party. However, after being in government and propping up the Tories, their attempt to position themselves as somehow supportive of people who rely on welfare, without apology for their actions in government, is immensely hypocritical. It would be laughable; were not the results of their time in coalition so devastating for many of these people they are now claiming to represent.